Archive for Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bill would allow coal plants, with restrictions

Carbon dioxide emission limits would be put in place

January 31, 2008


Bills would allow coal plants, limit CO2

Kansas legislators introduced bills on Wednesday to set the state's first limits on carbon dioxide emissions, but allow two coal-fired power plants to be built in western Kansas. Enlarge video

What's next

State Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, and state Rep. Carl Holmes, R-Liberal said this is the schedule for the new legislation:

Hearings will be held next week in the House Energy and Utilities Committee and Senate Utilities Committee Monday through Thursday, and the committees will work and possibly vote on the measures Friday. The bills are HB 2711 and SB 515.

Monday and Tuesday will be reserved for supporters of the legislation, and Wednesday and Thursday will be reserved for opponents.

The House committee meets at 9:15 a.m. in Room 783 of the Docking building; the Senate committee meets at 9:30 a.m. in Room 526-South in the Capitol.

— Supporters of two coal-burning power plants in western Kansas introduced legislation Wednesday that would require the state to approve construction of the plants while imposing limits on carbon dioxide emissions.

Backers of the bill described it as a compromise between those who want the $3.6 billion plants and environmentalists who oppose the project because it annually would emit 11 million tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

"There is no legislation like this in the United States. This is groundbreaking legislation," said state Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg.

But Tom Thompson, a lobbyist for the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, said the measure was tailor-made for Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build the two 700-megawatt plants near Holcomb.

"The point of this bill is to build the power plants. You can't be serious about reducing carbon dioxide emissions and be doing that," Thompson said.

He added that the process of producing the bill with Sunflower Electric's input behind closed doors "was a disservice to Kansas."

The bill came alive after a decision in October by Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby to deny permits for the plants, citing concerns about CO2 emissions and global warming. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius embraced Bremby's decision, which made headlines nationwide.

Since then, Sunflower Electric and its supporters, which include legislative leaders, have mounted a furious push to reverse the decision.

House Bill 2711 and Senate Bill 515 would essentially allow Sunflower to reapply for its permits and would limit Bremby's authority by not allowing him to consider carbon dioxide emissions.

It also would set into place allowable CO2 emissions for new plants, the amount of which would be lowered by 20 percent after one year of operation and 30 percent after 10 years.

Utilities could offset their emissions by using renewable energy sources, such as wind, conservation programs and storing CO2.

And the bill would set energy efficiency standards for public buildings, including schools; require utilities to reduce customer bills if they use solar power; and set up a commission to recommend energy policy.

State Rep. Carl Holmes, R-Liberal, chairman of the House Energy and Utilities Committee, has led the charge to get the plants built.

In addition to Holmes and Emler, the two ranking Democrats on legislative energy committees - state Rep. Annie Kuether, of Topeka, and state Sen. Janis Lee, of Kensington - also worked on the bill.

In talking to members of the House Republican caucus, Holmes said he didn't know what Sebelius would think about the proposal. In a statement, Sebelius' spokeswoman, Nicole Corcoran, said the governor and her staff were analyzing the measure.

Legislative reaction was mixed as the complicated proposal was explained in House and Senate caucus meetings.

State Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, said, "It does look like a comprehensive approach to energy."

But state Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said, "I'm not sure what they're proposing is much different than what Sunflower has requested in the past."

State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said he wasn't sure it was wise for the Legislature to jump into the decision by Bremby, which Sunflower already has appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.

And state Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said he had many questions about how effectively the proposed carbon dioxide trading system would work.

In talking about the bill with House Republicans, Holmes said, "What we tried to do is balance this against all the comments we've heard over the last six months."

But Thompson with the Sierra Club said environmentalists were never invited by Holmes to speak with him.


Retired_Caveman 10 years, 3 months ago

What you have here is the States Senator and Representive (and let's not forget the Governor) who's pocket books/wallets are filled with the Big businesses money (I.e. stocks or kick backs). It's not the CO2 emissions they are worried about or concerned about it's the money they are going to be losing. Again are government is not concerned about it's people, it's concerned about it's pocket book/wallet

georgeofwesternkansas 10 years, 3 months ago

Wrong Log. The only people that want to polute are the people of Lawrence and the customers of westar. Sunflower does not and will never spew the harmful ammounts of polution into the air that the Lawrence coal plat currently does, remember you have the 7th most poluting/per kwh dirty coal plant in the nation.

Maybe you should focus your attention to your own yard before you level your self serving wrath on your neighbor. Pig!!

Bill Griffith 10 years, 3 months ago

Concerning the Sierra Club addressing the renewal of Clean Air Act permits for LEC and Jeffrey, Its_getting_warmer prompted me to do some checking with what the Sierra Club is doing in this regards.
First, the Clean Air Act permits have nothing to do with CO2. EPA has not promulgated rules as of yet (but they will). So anyone who says that an entity has to fight for a particular action with regards to Clean Air Act permits in order to be serious about reducing CO2 emissions is dead wrong at this point in time. In three years they may very well be able to make that statement and have it ring true-but not today. The Clean Air Act is targeted at NOX and SOX, not CO2. However, I did find out that the Club is monitoring the permitting process to see if there is any point(s) of contention to deal with. I have been informed that they are also meeting with Westar to go over some of Westar's options in pollution controls. Most important, in my opinion, the Club is actively engaged in the KCC energy efficiecy docket which may shift the concept of how power is produced in the state by regulated utilities. So, based on these facts, I would contend that the Sierra Club is very serious about CO2 reductions.

Bill Griffith 10 years, 3 months ago

I see the governor came out with a statement today opposing the bill. So her coffers must not have as much Big Business money as Retired_Caveman states. Her support for Bremby has apparently caused her to get major flak from many parts of the business community.

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